One of the first games I play when I purchased my Shield was Riptide GP2, a fantastic game that reminds me of Jet Moto. The team behind it is Vector Unit, the developers behind the critically acclaimed Hydro Thunder Hurricane. When I heard they had released a new game and that it was a kart racer I was stoked. Then I read it was a free game with IAPs and immediately assumed the worst. Starting the game up for the first time I was extremely skeptical but was greatly surprised.
Beach Buggy Racing is a pretty good Mario Kart-esque game with some interesting power-ups that spice up the formula enough to be distinct. The controls are tight, the tracks are well built and include plenty of shortcuts for those who will explore for them, and the AI is challenging but not cheap. Outside of the actual racing though, the game uses standard currency, premium currency, and an energy system. The combination of these 3 systems are usually in place to drain money from the players, especially since all 3 can be purchased via IAP. The standard currency is used to buy new cars and to upgrade the cars. These are the only purchases required to finish the game and there is no cap on how much this currency can be earned through the game. The premium currency is used to buy consumable boosts, extra powerups, and paint jobs for the vehicles. This can be earned in game but there is a finite amount. Earning achievements, finishing cups, and the first time 1st place is earned on each track award premium currency. As of the current update there seems to be enough premium currency from playing the game to unlock all of the powerups which is the only permanent, mechanical use for the currency.
The energy system was created with perfection in mind. Starting a race costs one energy but getting 1st place will reward one energy back. Thus, any player good enough can finish the entire game in one sitting despite an energy system being in place. Beach Buggy Racing also implements the “pay to unlock the game” monetization that I think is the strength of the IAP. For $5 the Split Screen feature is unlocked — up to 4 controllers on one screen, perfect for Android Consoles or HDMI out — as well as the energy system and the ads being removed. Although standard and premium currency can still be purchased via IAP after upgrading, this method isn’t required as everything can be unlocked through gameplay. The IAP is still available for those who do not want, or cannot, to invest the time required. Much like Vector Unit’s past games, grinding for currency to upgrade or buy vehicles returns and can be time consuming near the end of the game. Regardless, Beach Buggy Racing combines a free experience that acts more like a timed demo with a full game having a price tag. It is the perfect merger of the two styles of monetization in the mobile world — free-to-play and premium.
At the time of writing this, there were fewer ways to earn the premium currency and it was used to buy the extra racers after unlocking them. The Split Screen was also locked up behind its own IAP of $2. The latest update, 1.0.4, has bundled the Split Screen with the Premium IAP (keeping the $5 price tag) and altering the premium currency earning and uses. The article reflects the status of the game as of version 1.0.4